Just as there’s more to Allegri than the Miserere, so with Antonio Lotti. The ubiquitous ‘Crucifixus’ (from the Missa Sancti Christophori) is presented here among a remarkable range of the Venetian’s mosaic of richly coloured Mass and psalm settings given by The Syred Consort and Orchestra of St Paul’s in their debut recording for Delphian. As a label never to shirk an ambitious choral project (we still bless them for that revelatory Strauss Deutsche Motette under the late David Trendell – 7/13), distinctiveness of language is clearly a virtue and Lotti a worthy figure in his unique repository of eclectic mid- to late-Baroque conceits.
Each of these offerings suggests a director in Ben Palmer who has a firm grip on his material: rhythms are propelled with purpose and vitality (as evident in the Dixit Dominus), and there’s an unyielding quest to uncover the imagery and sensibility of Lotti’s almost cinematic perspectives with graphic immediacy. Witness the repetitive and spiky homophonic accompaniment to ‘I was shapen in wickedness’ in the Miserere in C minor or the surprising theatricality of the ‘Et incarnatus’ in the Mass.
If there is a slight drawback in Lotti’s world, it’s the tendency to deliver concentrated flavours without the grammatical palate-cleansing relief that his friend Vivaldi offered down the canal. The strength of these performances lies largely in an organic sense of what each work can effectively impart, again strongly enabled by Palmer’s unequivocal vision. The full ensemble in rhetorical mode is generally more successful than the smaller-scale solos, which can sound vocally prosaic and where, rather too plenteously, blend and intonation have not been adequately repaired.
There’s still a good deal to enjoy here in these largely premiere recordings. The Sancti Christophori Mass is full of wonderfully fresh ideas and it is here that the ensemble, peccadilloes aside, most persuasively demonstrate their admirable commitment and feel for Lotti’s kaleidoscopic nuancing, not to mention a superior level of performance in this work. When the ‘Crucifixus’ is heard embedded within the mass’s Credo, it’s easier than ever to see how Lotti’s reputation is based on its three minutes of magic, and yet Ben Palmer has irrevocably identified a fine craftsman who is rather more than a ‘one-piece wonder’ – which Allegri may well remain.